[EDITORIALS]Invest in welfare of disabledTomorrow is the 26th anniversary of Korea’s national day for the disabled. Disabled groups are conducting long-term sit-down demonstrations and demanding that their rights to education be expanded. They are also calling for carers to assist them with mobility. The government has presented a well-timed set of countermeasures again this year, which includes introducing a coupon system for using welfare facilities. However, most of the ideas are recycled for the purpose of taking credit.
Why are the disabled demonstrating instead of celebrating a day that was designated for them? The current government has poured out rose-tinted pledges through various plans, including election campaign pledges and five-year welfare plans. However, apart from a few things such as expanding subsidies for disabled people, it has not kept many of its promises.
The government said it would create a law to forbid discrimination against disabled persons, which would go into effect in 2005. It also said it would introduce a pension for disabled persons. Nothing more has been heard of these plans.
The government also claimed it would expand mandatory employment for disabled people, but the employment rate of the disabled in most government-affiliated or government-funded organizations doesn’t even meet half of the 2 percent standard. Because of this, the monthly household income of a disabled person’s family is only 52 percent that of other families.
Disabled persons are also blocked from opportunities for education; only 25 percent receive special education. Even that is tilted towards elementary schools and some students have to give up their study in middle high or high school due to the lack of suitable schools. After graduation, there are almost no vocational training centers.
Laws guaranteeing disabled people’s right to move have also been created and some subway stations have added elevators. However, it is still difficult for disabled people to travel freely.
The budget allocated for disabled people this year is 1.1 trillion won, 0.27 percent of the gross domestic product, or GDP. That is only one-tenth of the average (2.7 percent) of OECD countries.
About 89 percent of disabled people acquired their disabilities through traffic accidents or industrial disasters. This indicates that anyone could become a disabled person. Investing in the welfare of the disabled is like getting insurance.